The world’s youngest countries are all in Africa, with forecasts for 2020 showing just one non-African country – Afghanistan – in the top 20.
The data, from the United Nations' World Population Prospects 2019, is a stark reminder of Africa’s youthful population.
Such a large number of young people presents both a challenge and opportunity for the continent.
The top 10
Niger is set to have the world’s youngest population in 2020, with a median age of just 15.2-years-old.
The West African country has the world’s highest birth rate, with every woman having an average of 7.2 children over the course of her lifetime. As a result, the country’s population is set to nearly triple by 2050.
Mali and Chad round out the top three, with median ages of 16.3 and 16.6, respectively.
What is the World Economic Forum on Africa?
With elections taking place in more than 20 African countries in 2019, the world’s youngest continent is facing a new era.
Held under the theme 'Shaping Inclusive Growth and Shared Futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution' the 28th World Economic Forum on Africa will convene more than 1,000 regional and global leaders from government, business, civil society and academia.
The event (held 4-6 September 2019) will explore new regional partnerships and entrepreneurial and agile leadership to create pathways for shared prosperity and drive a sustainable future.
Participants will discuss ways to accelerate progress on five transformative pan-African agendas in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, addressing the African Union’s Agenda 2063 priorities.
Read more about the Forum's Impact in Africa and our launch of a new Africa Growth Platform to scale the region’s start-ups for success.
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The opportunity – and challenge – of youth
The African Institute for Development Policy highlights the opportunity of a young population in Africa.
Spending on health and education - coupled with an environment that facilitates jobs and investment - could create a demographic dividend, boosting economic development.
However, if such a dividend isn't realised, the continent could face a demographic burden. This carries the risk of high unemployment, poverty and low productivity, according to UNICEF. These risks carry a further threat to stability and security across Africa.
The most recent Gates Foundation report also notes the importance of young populations more broadly: "Today's booming youth populations can be good news for the economy; if young people are healthy, educated and productive, there are more people to do the kind of innovative work that stimulates rapid growth." But the report highlights the need for investment in human capital in order to make this a reality.